Monday, March 17, 2008

Nothing Less Will Do

I've decided to pursue one piece of perfect living room furniture this spring. My "stereo case" consists of plastic shelving, while I wait to find the right piece, because I'm a perfectionist and I'd rather have nothing than something I don't like. Today I drove to Cedar Rapids, because I have a suspicion that it will have better used furniture than Iowa City because there are fewer students to buy it. It's not that I won't buy new furniture, but I normally don't like it. I find most new furniture to be either too fussy or too clunky, and the chairs are too deep and bad for one's back. Even the ultra-expensive arty furniture just makes too much of a statement for me. I don't want to live in a gallery; I like everything cozy and inviting, or failing that, at least practical.
There was a traffic jam on the freeway, so I exited and cut through the Czech Village to the arty part of Cedar Rapids, which is a very small section of town. I drove past the Harley bar and some galleries and empty storefronts until I reached downtown, which, again, was not very far away. I've wanted to visit Jeff Jones consignment furniture store for over a year now, but I thought someone told me it was on 3rd St., where the Harley bar is, and I could not for the life of me find it. It's typical of me that it took me a year to pick up the phone book, write down the address--3rd Avenue--and drive over there. I'm not very good at keeping track of the passage of time. It's how I wound up in grad school so long. It's also why I wasn't upset when I turned 40; I had gotten upset the year before, when I turned 39 but thought I was turning 40.
Now that I finally know where Jeff Jones is, I will go there once or twice a month until I find what I'm looking for, whatever that is--unless I find it somewhere else first. I once picked out an entertainment center at a consignment store in Anamosa, but I never actually bought it, so Anamosa is my next stop.
Even so, of all the furniture stores I have ever been to, Jeff Jones is my favorite. I did not see any particle board, and nearly everything in the store had character. They have stunning furniture pieces. Even though I wasn't looking for a coffee table, I would have bought one there if it hadn't already been sold. It was perfect. It was light wood, probably a Prairie style, smaller than most coffee tables, with stained glass inset in the top, and a functional shelf under the table surface. There were outer slats that blocked anyone from having a clear view of the shelf. I saw other pieces with a similar look, and all of them had been sold. Probably I need to meet the person who bought them and just move in. Then I could stop shopping for furniture.


Monday, March 10, 2008

What You Wish For

It's a good thing I was careful what I wished for, because my company may be sending me to Tucson! I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, I'm going to go on a Sherman Alexie reading spree. I have tickets to hear Steve Earle in May, but by that time it will be spring and I'll be happy even without Steve Earle, although Steve Earle will make me deliriously happy.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Business Trip

Iowa has been a bit stark most of the time this winter, as you can see. The other day I was driving to work after another storm, and the road was icy, and I thought to myself, "You know, I hate everything." I'm not the type to stay cranky, though, and I mellowed out. Still, given the unrelenting cold and storms, I can't say I was terribly enthused about my business trip to Minnesota. I wondered why they couldn't send me to Florida.

Within a day in Minneapolis, though, I realized I could even go so far as to vacation in Minnesota in winter. It was great. I was there for five days and it never snowed once. The hotel had a swimming pool and a hot tub, and my coworker turned out to be an even bigger foodie than I am. We went to the Good Earth on the first night, where I had a Japanese udon noodle soup with bok choy and other vegetables. The next night we ate at Fasika Ethiopian restaurant; Ethiopian is one of my favorite cuisines. Then we ate at India Palace in Roseville, where we received truly professional service, and the food was perfect. Finally, we went out for Tibetan and Nepali food at Everest on Grand restaurant in Saint Paul, and everything was divine there too. I ate jak dumplings.

I dragged my coworker to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which was free and turned out to have a tremendous and varied collection, though usually just one or two works on display by any particular artist. They had something for everyone; my coworker likes the Dutch Masters, from whom there of course were some selections, as well as Chuck Close, and they had a huge work by him. I was thrilled to find three Edward Weston prints, and I also for the first time encountered the work of George Tice, which I found very exciting. In addition, the Tatra car took my breath away.

I was sorry to leave, and when I approached the Iowa border I was even sorrier. When I got about 25 miles north of the border, it started to snow. As I neared the border the wind picked up, and by the time I crossed into Iowa I wanted to turn around and go back. However, the driving was more or less safe, and I didn't have any trouble getting home. I did spot one motorist sitting, unmoving, in his car with both hands on his steering wheel, at the bottom of a deep median. He appeared to be meditating on how he could have possibly ended up at the bottom of the median. I called 911, and in less than five minutes I saw a police car headed in that direction.